Summary: Four key concepts about what Christians believe about the future for people investigating the Christian faith.
People today are fascinated with the future. The future represents uncertainty, it’s something we can’t control or accurately prepare for, so we’re often anxious about the future, and many people try to find ways to get an edge on what tomorrow holds. This is what’s made psychic hotlines a $300 million a year business. This is why Americans bought 20 million books on astrology last year, with millions of Americans consulting their astrological forecast each day. There are dozens of magazines and books that use sociological analysis to try to forecast what the future will be like, books like Future Shock and Megatrends.
Often the Christian response to the future has been the kind of kooky speculation we saw portrayed in the drama. Back in 1988 3.2 million copies of the book 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988 were distributed to almost every pastor in America (Alnor, Soothsayers of the Second Advent 15). That book claimed that Jesus Christ would return for his church in September of 1988. When people confronted the author of that book with Jesus’ words that no one knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return, he responded by saying that we could know the month, even the week, just not the precise day and time during that day. The secular media picked up on this and did stories of Christians putting their pets to sleep, selling all their possessions, and waiting on hilltops for Jesus to return. One major Christian network most of you are probably familiar with ran reruns for those three days . Obviously 1988 came and went.
You see, every generation of Christians for the last 2,000 years has had difficulty resisting the urge to speculate about the future. The apostle Paul in the Bible had to confront some of the Christians living in the city of Thessalonica because they’d quit their jobs and stopped providing for their families in their anticipation of Christ’s second coming. The biggest explosion in future speculation and doomsday predictions came in 1000 AD. "Multitudes sold their estates to unbelievers and gave away the proceeds to charities, businesses were neglected, the fields were left uncultivated, and for some years the wildest confusion and terror reigned" (Alnor 55).
What do Christians believe about the future? Today we’re finishing an 8 part series on the basics of the Christian faith. We’ve been trying to explore the core concepts that make up the essence of Christian faith. We’ve been trying to explain these concepts in a way that people unfamiliar with the Christian faith can understand and make sense of in their daily lives. As I’ve mentioned before, every world view and philosophy--the Christian faith included--is like a jigsaw puzzle, with each core belief fitting together with the other core beliefs to form a coherent way of viewing reality. Even though it’s in vogue to mix and match beliefs from different world views, religions and philosophies, the end result of that cut and paste approach is a world view that lacks internal coherence because the specific core beliefs don’t fit together. So far we’ve looked at what Christians believe about God, the Bible, the world, Jesus, the cross, the Holy Spirit, and then last week, the church. Today we’re going to finish our series by looking at what Christians believe about the future.
Now if you’re hoping a detailed timeline of the sequence of events leading up to Christ’s second coming you’re going to be disappointed today. Many Christians have different convictions about the sequence of events leading up to the end, and if you’re really interested about what we believe you can find out our views on some of these details at our Meet Life Bible Fellowship Church seminar next Sunday. What I want to focus in on today are the core concepts about what Christians believe about the future. So today we’re going to look at four key concepts about the future.
1. History Has a Goal
We start with God’s perspective on time.
Ephesians 1:9-10-- And he [God] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment-- to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ (NIV).
Several key words from these two verses reveal God’s perspective on time. The first is the word "mystery." In the Bible, a mystery is something that was previously unknown that God has now made clear. People are looking for secrets and mysteries when they consult astrologers and psychics, yet throughout the Bible, God warns us that consulting these things is a form rebellion against God, that if we really want to know about the future, we need to just come to God through faith. God has revealed all the mysteries we need to know about the future through his book, so there’s no need for astrologers and psychic friends.